An international research team, led by Zhong Yin, an associate professor at Tohoku University’s International Centre for Synchrotron Radiation Innovation Smart (SRIS), has harnessed groundbreaking X-ray spectroscopy technology to delve into the origins of life on Earth.
Collaborating with experts from the University of Geneva, ETH Zurich, and the University of Hamburg, they embarked on a unique scientific journey. Their aim? To unlock the secrets of pre-biotic conditions and understand how life came into being.
Before life as we know it existed on Earth, the planet’s atmosphere was vastly different. High-energy radiation from space played a pivotal role, ionizing molecules and paving the way for life’s emergence.
The Journey to Pre-Biotic Earth
The scientists hypothesized that small water puddles containing urea, a crucial organic compound, were exposed to this intense radiation. This exposure caused urea to undergo transformations, becoming the foundational building blocks of life, including DNA and RNA.
Deciphering Urea’s Secrets
To unravel this complex process, the research team needed to explore how urea molecules react when ionized, diving deep into the intricate mechanisms and energy dissipation pathways.
The technology they employed was an innovative X-ray spectroscopy approach, using a high-harmonic generation light source and a sub-micron liquid flat-jet.
This revolutionary method allowed them to scrutinize chemical reactions in liquids with an unprecedented level of precision, down to the femtosecond, which is a mere quadrillionth of a second.
The Quantum Leap in Understanding
“We have shown for the first time how urea molecules react after ionization,” noted Yin. “Ionizing radiation damages urea biomolecules, but as the energy dissipates, ureas undergo a dynamic process at the femtosecond timescale.” This breakthrough brought scientists closer to unraveling the enigma of life’s origins on Earth.
From Gas Phase to Aqueous Environment
Previous studies examining molecule reactions were confined to the gas phase. To transition to the natural environment of biochemical processes – the aqueous environment – the team engineered a device capable of generating an ultra-thin liquid jet, thinner than one-millionth of a meter, within a vacuum. Using a thicker jet would have interfered with the X-ray measurements.
Beyond Origins: A New Frontier in Attochemistry
Zhong Yin believes their achievement goes beyond understanding life’s genesis. It opens a new pathway in the field of attochemistry, where shorter light pulses are essential to observe chemical reactions in real time.
Their pioneering approach enables scientists to watch a molecular movie, tracking each step of the process in unprecedented detail.
In a world where the origins of life remain one of the greatest mysteries, this research takes us one step closer to understanding the remarkable journey that brought life to our planet.
Unearthing Prosperity: Nigerian workers strike Lithium in Edo state, sparks reactions
Meanwhile, a young Nigerian man recently unveiled an interesting finding, lithium deposits in Edo State, Nigeria.
Through a tweet accompanied by a snapshot, @HarunaBraimoh1 showcased a high-quality specimen of lithium. This sample was sourced from a wooded area in proximity to Imeke village, near Auchi.
Amplifying the enthusiasm, @zaddyofbenin uploaded an intriguing video that showcased a considerable stockpile of lithium. This visual spectacle triggered conjecture and inquisitiveness within the online community. The video’s caption read, “Edo undeniably enjoys an abundance of valuable materials. Can you identify this particular solid substance?”